And although Depp had resisted the role of leading man his whole life … it ended up catching him totally off guard one night at a crowded restaurant.
As he looked across the restaurant, Depp said, "I saw this back and this neck. And I thought 'My God, what's that?' And suddenly, the back turned to face me, like you know, from 20, 30 yards away and it made eye contact. … That was it."
That beautiful back and neck belonged to Vanessa Paradis, the then-27-year-old French actress and pop star. The couple have two children.
Fatherhood and family life seem to suit Depp just fine. Fatherhood, he says, has grounded him in a way that his acting career never did. Depp said, "I was sort of roaming around, wandering kind of aimlessly until that moment when my baby girl arrived, and then everything became clear."
The former Hollywood bad boy is now 40 years old and takes pleasure in a mellower European lifestyle. He and his family have made their home in the south of France. "I think kiddies should grow up in a very simple, calm environment, you know, where everything is not about the next movie or success," he said.
Making a ‘Movie My Kids Could Watch’
However, seeing the world through the prism of two wide-eyed kids has compelled Depp to do the unthinkable — at least for him — take a leading role in the upcoming big budget summer blockbuster: Pirates of the Caribbean.
"Having a 4-year-old daughter, over the last few years, I've been watching quite a few of the Disney animated films. I just love these movies. When the pirate idea came around, I sort of said it would be great to make a movie that my kids could watch," Depp said.
As much as he appreciates his success, Depp says he wouldn't encourage his children to follow in his footsteps.
"Dad kind of stumbled into it and God, you know, be a writer or be a painter. Be a poet. Whatever. Do something that you can do by yourself." And Depp often ponders taking the advice he gives to his kids.
"It might be nice to sort of drop off at some point — write a book or paint or just kind of sit there and drool someday," Depp said. For a man who's made a career out of making the unpredictable choices, maybe he'll just chuck it all?
Whatever his next step is, Depp seems comfortable with the thought that Hollywood success can be fleeting. "Tomorrow the call may come out where they say, OK, don't ever hire Johnny Depp again. He's finished. Get him out. You know, you never know."